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TASERS Standardizing to Save Lives and Reduce Injuries

Issue
Have the law enforcement agencies in San Mateo County adopted a standardized TASER® policy and, if so, is it effective?

Summary
This investigation focused on 20 uniformed police agencies of all cities/towns and the Sheriff’s Department in San Mateo County, the California Highway Patrol, and BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) Police. It was found that only two cities, Menlo Park and East Palo Alto, currently do not employ TASER devices. Standardizing TASER device use policies and training would provide law enforcement agencies with a unified understanding of appropriate response to events within and across jurisdictions in the County. Of those agencies using TASER devices, the use of force policies and training requirements are sufficiently similar to consider them standardized, with the exception of the Sheriff’s Use of Force policy. The 2011 San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury recommends that the Sheriff either adopt a Use of Force policy that is consistent with the other agencies in the County or reinstate the Sheriff’s prior Use of Force policy dated April 10, 2008. It also recommended that uniformed officers across the County who are required to have a firearm while on duty carry this less-than-deadly force tool whenever they carry a firearm. It is further recommended that all agencies track the use of the TASER device to obtain control of subjects, even when the subject is not actually “tased.”

Background
The TASER, a branded electronic control device (ECD), is a device manufactured by TASER International, Inc. that employs a high voltage, low amperage shock that is momentarily painful to the subject in a manner that causes the subject to lose muscle control and, if standing, fall to the ground. It works by the use of compressed gas to propel two barbs, attached by very thin wires, toward the subject. Once the barbs attach to skin or clothing, the shock is applied. It has an effective range of approximately 6 to 25 feet, thus allowing the officer to avoid immediate physical contact with the subject. The TASER device can also be used as a “stun gun” in what is called “drive stun” mode.1 The TASER device is used by police officers to bring a subject under control, offering a less lethal option than a firearm.

A TASER device can directly deliver an electrical shock from the device itself without the use of wires or barbs, but such requires physical contact with the subject. It does not incapacitate the subject, but uses momentary pain as the method of obtaining control. A “drive stun” is police terminology for approaching a subject to apply a TASER in the drive stun mode. The cartridge that is on the TASER device must be removed to use it in this way. This

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The use of a TASER device in an instance where otherwise the officer would be required to use physical force to subdue a subject has been reported to reduce the incidence of officer injuries, and consequently the cost to taxpayers for insurance and disability payments.2 The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), which provides the insurance pool for all of the police agencies except the Sheriff’s department and California Highway Patrol, encourages the use of TASER devices and provides grants for departments to obtain them at no charge. TASER devices are used by uniformed police officers in all law enforcement agencies in San Mateo County with two exceptions, the cities of East Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Peace officers3 in the Coroner’s Office, District Attorney and Probation Department do not use TASER devices. No police agency uses an ECD made by any other company. Although the TASER device is less lethal than a firearm, no use of force is without lethal risk. In the last two years in San Mateo County, TASER devices have been used approximately 130 times4 with no reported loss of life or serious injury attributable to the device. One agency reported an instance in which a TASER device was used under circumstances which, had it not been available and successfully activated, deadly force would have been used. The use of the TASER device likely saved the life of the subject. The TASER device has a laser light that is used for aiming. This light is visible to a subject and when an officer “lights up” a subject with the laser light, this alone is often sufficient for the officer to gain the subject’s immediate compliance.5 TASER devices can be misused by officers, just as any other use of force can be misused. The Grand Jury is unaware of any reported abuses by any of the law enforcement agencies in San Mateo County in the past 2 years which is the time frame studied here. The law enforcement agencies that use TASER devices have chosen to require extensive training, multi-level

practice is usually employed when the barbs of the TASER fail to attach, or when the officer is too close to use the TASER device at a distance. 2 See Reduction in Injuries charts from several police agencies at http://www.taser.com/pages/le_overview.aspx 3 Sworn peace officers, as specified by statute, are authorized to use deadly force if needed. 4 See Appendix A. 5 For the purpose of this report we are calling this “deployment.” “Activation” is when the officer actually uses, or attempts to use, the TASER device on a subject.

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supervisory review, and reporting of any activation of the TASER device. The California Penal Code provides for criminal sanctions for the misuse of TASER devices.6 All of the law enforcement agencies in San Mateo County, except the Sheriff’s Office, use TASER protocols established by Lexipol, LLC of California. These protocols define the procedures for device deployment (use of force), activation, subject follow-up, reporting, and review policies. Lexipol is a private company that contracts by subscription service for the development and updating of policies with police departments across the United States. Lexipol defends its policies in court as meeting the “standard of care” when litigation regarding their use by local law enforcement agencies arises.7 The Sheriff’s Office does not use Lexipol and has developed its own comprehensive policies. The Sheriff’s Office provides law enforcement services for much of the County, including the unincorporated areas of the County and now including, by contract, the cities of San Carlos and soon Half Moon Bay, which previously had their own TASER device policies. The officers working for these cities are, or soon will become Sheriff’s Deputies. On February 22, 2010, the Sheriff’s department modified its policy to require a higher threshold for deployment and activation of TASER devices by deputies.
Sheriff’s Department Use of Force Ladder April 10, 2008 February 22, 2010 Officer presence Officer presence Verbal commands Verbal commands Light touch Light touch Physical controls (restraint Physical controls (restraint holds) holds) Aerosol pepper projection Aerosol pepper projection Impact weapons (ASP/Baton, Taser Electronic Control flashlight) Device (ECD) Impact weapons (ASP/Baton, Specialty Impact Munitions flashlight) (SIMs) Specialty Impact Munitions Taser Electronic Control (SIMs) Device (ECD) Carotid Control Carotid Control Deadly force Deadly force

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The Sheriff’s Office employs a Use of Force Ladder (see diagram on previous page) that requires a deputy to use a baton or flashlight prod and Specialty Impact Munitions (e.g., rubber bullets) before deployment and activation of the TASER unless the deputy can articulate a reason to use the higher level of force presumably represented by the TASER. The Sheriff’s Use of Force Policy, dated April 10, 2008, placed the threshold for TASER devices use immediately prior to the use of a baton or flashlight prod, providing an opportunity to avoid physical contact with a subject. The Sheriff’s current Use of Force policy places the use of a TASER device after both the physical contact use of a baton or flashlight prod and the use of SIMS.
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California Penal Code section 244.5. More information about Lexipol can be found at http://www.lexipol.com.

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Lexipol uses a toolbox8 approach, allowing the officer to use their best judgment based on the subject’s behavior. The California Highway Patrol calls this the Use of Force Option Wheel. See diagram at right.

Investigation
The Grand Jury collected information regarding the extent of standardization, the use of TASER devices and the use of Lexipol in San Mateo County using a survey, analyzed reports and documents, and conducted interviews with several Police Chiefs, the Sheriff and other personnel within their respective agencies. Officers who had actually deployed and activated a TASER in making an arrest were also interviewed. A chart summarizing information collected is provided in Appendix A. To help understand the effectiveness and limitations of the TASER device, a local police agency conducted a demonstration of a TASER device deployment and activation for the Grand Jury. Among the documents reviewed were the Use of Force manuals published by the Police Department of each city, sample post-incident Use of Force Reports, Lexipol generic standards and protocols, and other relevant documents.

Findings
The 2011 San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury finds: 1. The Sheriff’s Department has a Use of Force policy that is different than the standardized policies of the other uniformed law enforcement agencies in San Mateo County. The Sheriff Department’s policy requires a deputy to make physical contact with subjects who are violent or threatening prior to the deployment and/or activation of the TASER device unless the deputy can identify and articulate a reason to move up the ladder to the TASER device use. Once engaged in physical contact, TASER use is limited to the “drive stun” mode. 2. Law Enforcement agencies often respond to calls outside their jurisdiction for mutual aid and joint task force operations, such as the San Mateo County Gang Task Force and Drug Task Force. In these joint operations the protocols for Taser use by the Sheriff are not the same as the other agencies in the county which also use TASERS. 3. Of the 18 uniformed police agencies using TASER devices in San Mateo County that the Grand Jury reviewed, the primary provider of Use of Force policies and TASER use
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Many interviewees stated that “the TASER device is a use of force tool,” that should be used appropriately just like any other tool available to officers.

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policies is Lexipol, LLC. Fifteen cities, BART and the CHP use Lexipol, or have policies that are similar, if not identical, to Lexipol. 4. All agencies using TASER devices require training prior to the issuance of a TASER to individual officers; require annual or more frequent retraining; require a “Use of Force Report” when a TASER device is activated;9 and require medical evaluation for a subject who has been “tased.” 5. No agency requires reporting when a TASER device has been used in the “light up” deployment mode, but not activated. 6. No agency requires that an officer who has been issued a TASER device actually keep it on his/ her person. The TASER device may be kept secured in the patrol car for those officers on patrol duty. 7. The cities of Menlo Park and East Palo Alto are the only San Mateo County police agencies that do not supply TASER devices to their officers and therefore TASERS are not available as an alternative to lethal force.

Conclusions
The 2011 San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury concludes: 1. TASER devices can be a use of force alternative to the lethal force of a firearm. 2. With the exception of the Sheriff’s Office, of those agencies using TASER devices, the use of force deployment and activation policies are sufficiently similar to consider them to be standardized. 3. Without standardized use of force policies across San Mateo County with respect to activation and deployment of TASER devices, police officers and Sheriff’s deputies do not have a consistent approach in responding to potential use of force events. In addition, a lack of common policies (and training) could set inconsistent expectations with the public and law enforcement officers alike as to when and how TASER devices will be deployed and activated. 4. Lexipol, LLC provides the most-used set of standards for Use of Force policies in San Mateo County. 5. All agencies that are using TASER devices have adequate training, supervision, reporting, review, and medical evaluation of the subject when TASER devices are used. 6. TASER devices that are deployed, but not activated, are not included in Use of Force reports. This understates the effectiveness of Tasers because “lighting up” a subject with the laser light is often sufficient for the officer to gain the subject’s immediate compliance. The absence of this reporting can result in future decision-makers not having sufficient information about the utility of carrying and deploying this device. 7. An officer who is trained in the use of TASER devices cannot make use of the device if he or she is not carrying it when it is needed.

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Please see attached sample Use of Force report attached as Appendix B

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8. The use of a TASER device, before being required to physically subdue a subject, would result in fewer injuries to both officers and subjects. When an officer goes “hands on” with a subject, in the form of the use of a baton, flashlight prod, or other device that can cause physical injury, it places the officer and the subject into a position where physical injury is more likely.

Recommendations
The 2011 San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury recommends that the Sheriff: 1. Adopt either the Lexipol standard policies and decision toolbox approach, establish similar policies, or reestablish the prior Use of Force policy dated April 10, 2008. 2. Add a “deployment only” category to all Use of Force Reports and track the effect that this “light up” mode has in assisting deputies to gain and maintain control over subjects. 3. Require uniformed deputies to have TASER devices available to the same extent that the officers are required to have a firearm available for use. The 2011 San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury recommends that the City Councils of the cities of Menlo Park and East Palo Alto: 1. Implement the use of TASER devices for their uniformed police officers. 2. Adopt Use of Force policies that are consistent with other San Mateo County cities. 3. Implement policies that require training, supervision, reporting, multi-level supervisory review, and medical evaluation of subjects when TASER devices are used as well as “deployment only” tracking for in-field incidents. 4. Require uniformed officers to have TASER devices available to the same extent that the officers are required to have a firearm available for use. The 2011 San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury recommends that the City Councils of all cities other than Menlo Park and East Palo Alto: 1. Add a “deployment only” category to all Use of Force Reports and track the effect that this “light up” mode has in assisting deputies to gain and maintain control over subjects. 2. Require uniformed officers to have TASER devices available to the same extent that the officers are required to have a firearm available for use.

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Appendix A Survey Results on Tasers

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DCLINE

MAYOR PROTEM ANDREW COHEN COUNCIL MEMBER KELLY FERGUSSON COUNCIL MEMBER

701 LAUREL STREET, MENLO PARK, CA 94025-3483 www.menlopark.org
CITY OF

WENLO
Honorable Joseph E. Bergeron Judge of the Superior Court Hall of Justice nd 400 County Center; 2 Floor Redwood City, CA 94063-1655 Re: Response to Tasers, Standardizing to Save Lives and Reduce Injuries Grand Jury Report Dear Judge Bergeron, We are in receipt of the Grand Jury’s final report entitled, “Tasers, Standardizing to Save Lives and Reduce Injuries” Pursuant to your May 24, 2011, request for response; the Menlo Park City Council held a public meeting on July 19, 2011 and approved this response. The City of Menlo Park responds to the Grand Jury’s findings and recommendations as follows: Findings 1. The Sheriff’s department has a Use of Force policy that is different than the standardized policies of the other uniformed law enforcement agencies in San Mateo County. Response: Respondent agrees with the finding. 2. Law enforcement agencies often respond to calls outside their jurisdiction for mutual aid and joint task force operations. In these joint operations the protocols for Taser use by the Sheriff are not the same as the other agencies in the county which also use the Taser. Response: Respondent agrees with the finding. 3. The primary provider of Use of Force policies and Taser policies in San Mateo County is Lexipol, LLC. Response: Respondent agrees with the finding. 4. All agencies using Taser devices require training prior to the issuance; require annual or more frequent retraining; require a Use of Force Report when a Taser is activated, and require medical evaluation for a subject who has been “tased.” Response: Respondent agrees with the finding.

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5. No agency requires reporting when a Taser device has been used in the “light up” deployment mode, but not activated. Response: Respondent agrees with the finding. 6. No agency requires that an officer who has been issued a Taser device actually keep it on his/her person. The Taser device may be kept secured in a patrol car for those officers on patrol duty. Response: Respondent agrees with the finding. 7. The cities of Menlo Park and East Palo Alto are the only San Mateo County police agencies that do not supply Taser devices to their officers. Response: Respondent agrees with the finding. Recommendations The 2011 San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury recommends that the Sheriff: 1. Adopt either the Lexipol standard policies and decision toolbox approach, establish similar policies or reestablish the prior Use of Force policy dated April 10, 2008. Response: Not applicable to Menlo Park 2. Add a “deployment only” category to all Use of Force Reports and track the effect that this “light up” mode has in assisting deputies to gain and maintain control over subjects. Response: Not applicable to Menlo Park 3. Require uniformed deputies to have Taser devices available to the same extent that the officers are required to have a firearm available for use. Response: Not applicable to Menlo Park The 2011 San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury recommends that the City Councils of the cities of Menlo Park and East Palo Alto: 1. Implement the use of Taser devices for their uniformed police officers. Response: The recommendation has not yet been implemented, but will be carefully evaluated over the next several months. 2. Adopt Use of Force policies that are consistent with other San Mateo County cities.

Response: The Menlo Park Police Department subscribes to Lexipol, LLC, and therefore has consistent Use of Force policies. Lexipol Taser policies will be adopted. Implement policies that require training, supervision, reporting, multi-level 3. supervisory review, and medical evaluation of subjects when Taser devices are used as well as “deployment only” tracking for in-field incidents. Response: The recommendation has not yet been implemented, but will be implemented in conjunction with Taser implementation if the City determines to pursue. 4. Require uniformed officers to have Taser devices available to the same extent that the officers are required to have a firearm available for use. Response: The recommendation has not yet been implemented, but will be implemented in conjunction with Taser implementation if the City determines to pursue. The 2011 San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury recommends that the City Council of all the cities other than Menlo Park and East Palo Alto: 1. Add a “deployment only” category to all Use of Force Reports and track the effect that this “light up” mode has in assisting deputies to gain and maintain control over subjects. Response: Not applicable to Menlo Park 2. Require uniformed officers to have Taser devices available to the same extent that the officers are required to have a firearm available for use. Response: Not applicable to Menlo Park Sincerely,

Lacey Burt Commander of Special Operations City of Menlo Park On behalf of Bryan Roberts